|Written by Atlantic Branch Patron|
When the time comes to write the definitive history of The Canadian Black Watch, it is unlikely the years of the cold war, when we all served together in one of the two battalions of the regiment in various places around the world, will get much attention. Perhaps we’ll see a footnote or two when the history is written sometime during the next half century, but probably nothing more.
It is even more unlikely the memorable comments from those who served in the regiment at that time will garner any comment.
Tiger Ellison’s reply to Jack Niven when asked why he was lying on his bed while the rest of the battalion were involved in sports…
“Based on my experience Jack,” he said, “when I get the urge to exercise, I find if I lie still for a while, the feeling passes off.”
The Golden Rule - “He who has the gold makes the rules.”
A driver’s comment to the transport officer when asked about the condition of the tires on a ¾ ton truck…
“Christ, sergeant, there’s more tread on a baloney skin than there is on those tires.”
A commanding officer was of the opinion the battalion was getting slack and idle. With an unusual degree of democracy, he gathered the officers together in the officers’ mess to give them a very boring lecture on the need to instill enthusiasm.
He ended the lecture with a simple demand.
“Now,” he said to the assembled officers, “does anyone here have any suggestions how we can get this battalion back up on its toes?”
There were no suggestions until finally an uninterested young second lieutenant at the back of the room raised his hand and gave the colonel his solution.
“Sir, why don’t we raise all the urinals by at least a foot?”
When a soldier chose to leave the Army, he was paraded in front of the regimental sergeant major and stood to attention while the great man spoke to him. It was known as the ‘Departure Interview.’
Not that interested in the task, the RSM concluded he had to say something to satisfy the requirement to counsel the departing soldier.
“Why are you leaving the Army, boy?”
The soldier answered instantly.
“Because I never want to stand in line again, sir.”
The RSM, a little annoyed by what he considered to be a somewhat insolent answer…
“I suppose,” he said, “that you want to piss on my grave when I die.”
“Like I said,” the soldier replied, looking straight ahead, “I never want to stand in line again.”
Major Lloyd Watling, who commanded a company in second battalion in Aldershot and Ron Finnie, the regimental sergeant major of first battalion had a long standing hate of each other that went back many years. That in itself was bad enough but RSM Finnie had to pass by Major Watling’s company lines every day when he went to the sergeants’ mess. The possibility of bumping into the company commander on his way kept him very vigilant.
On one occasion while walking to the mess for morning coffee with Sergeant Major Eric Cain, RSM Finnie noted with some interest that Major Watling was speaking to his company on the parade square with his back turned to the roadway where Mr. Finnie and Sergeant Major Cain were walking.
Seeing his opportunity to score a memorable point while the troops in the company watched, they both saluted the major’s back. Then they held the salute for a few seconds while the RSM said in very loud voice, largely for the benefit of the soldiers.
“Major Watling, sir. I’m saluting you.”
With barely a pause in his talk to the troops, and with his back still turned to the road, the company commander’s response was delivered in an equally loud voice.
“And a good thing too Mr. Finnie, because if you didn’t salute me, I’d throw you in the guard room.”
During an especially vicious January storm in Camp Gagetown in the early 1960s, Corporal Robbie Robertson was driving home to the married quarters after last parade.
It was one of the more vicious storms that winter.
The wind drove the snow across the sports field and drifted across the network of roads leading to the main gate. The blizzard was making it almost impossible to make much headway or avoid the other cars that were slipping and sliding into the ditch. Moving very slowly through the storm, Robbie caught sight of a figure, barely visible in a kilt and greatcoat, floundering deep in the snow bank on the side of the road.
A member of the regiment was obviously in great distress.
Robbie carefully pulled the car up beside the pedestrian struggling though the drifts. The creature half buried in the snow was Major Bob Porter, the commanding officer of The Black Watch Regimental Depot. By coincidence, he was also Robbie’s commanding officer
Robbie slowed the car carefully to make sure he didn’t slide off the road. Then he lowered the window and offered his commanding officer a lift to the married quarters.
Major Porter gratefully struggled into the car and shook the snow off his boots and greatcoat. He heaved a sigh of relief at Robbie’s kindness for saving him from the consequences of floundering through the worst storm of the winter.
With his passenger secure in the car Robbie, ever conscious of the importance of a good deed, continued along the snow covered road at about five miles an hour with the visibility down to about ten feet. Not fast, but at least he was moving towards the married quarters and the major was out of the blizzard which was now getting much worse. Robbie realized that if Major Porter had been still on the road, it was unlikely he would ever have made it home.
Robbie’s generosity probably saved the commanding officer of the Regimental Depot from extreme discomfort or worse.
Major Porter never said much at the best of times so very little small talk followed as Robbie peered through the snow-covered windscreen that the wipers could barely clear and continued slowly on his way.
After about five minutes, Major Porter began to look around the car -first in the front and then he leaned over and checked out the back.
The back seat area of the car bore considerable mute evidence of the Robertson children – candy wrappers, popsicle sticks, a couple of empty soft drink bottles, paper napkins, coloring books, crushed crayons and a number of plastic toys - all of the things that litter the interior of anyone’s car who has small children.
After a couple of minutes checking out the interior of the vehicle and completely oblivious to the raging storm or the fact that Robbie had rescued him, Major Porter looked into the back seat again at the residue left by the Robertson children.
Then he looked across at Robbie hunched over the steering wheel trying to get them safely home, shook his head in disgust and said to himself in a voice loud enough that his rescuer could hear him….
“Humph… dirty car… dirty soldier!”
Harry Philpit in Cyprus, when asked if he planned to get drunk on Christmas Eve…
He thought about it very seriously for a moment or two before responding to the question.
“I’m not sure. I’ll drink a bottle of rye and then I’ll make up my mind.”
A soldier’s comment on a soldier from Newfoundland who over slept…
“I’m not surprised. Before he joined the Army, his alarm clock was a rooster!”
Joe Buck MacIntre charged a soldier for sitting in the assistant adjutant’s office with his feet up on the desk when he should have been cleaning the battalion offices.
“He sat there at the desk sir,” he said to the adjutant the next morning when he explained why he had charged him, “and he looked about as contented as a pig pissing!”
Sid Alchorn, the battalion orderly room corporal wasn’t impressed with the ability of a soldier who had been assigned to him, from C company, as a clerk learner.
“The son of a bitch is useless. He couldn’t spell cat if you gave him the c and the a.”
Everyone that served in Cyprus will remember the cave ladies. Those two tough old Brit girls who lived in a house in Tjiklos, part of which was dug into the side of the hill – hence the name. They had both served in the British Army in the Second World War and on one occasion in Cyprus, had actually instructed a Van Doo officer digging in a position near their house how to tie off sandbags when they concluded the soldiers that were doing the job didn’t have it right.
Among their many accomplishments, one had formerly played ladies’ squash for Scotland. That seemed like a significant point for The Black Watch commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Bentley MacLeod, to make at a major international press reception attended by the two old girls.
Just before he was about to introduce the former national squash champion to the assembled media, his memory failed him.
“What the hell did she do?” he whispered to one of the officers who had no idea, but said he would find out. He asked around, returned a few minutes later and confirmed that she had played ladies’ squash for Scotland.
A few minutes later, a much relieved Colonel Bentley formally welcomed his guests with a short speech.
The crowning moment was the introduction of the athletic cave lady.
“This woman,” he said, and pointed to the very large and formidable looking Scottish lady clutching a large gin and tonic in her hand, while quite enjoying the attention.
Unfortunately, the Colonel’s mind went blank again and, for the second time, he couldn’t remember what she had done.
He stumbled, stuttered and muttered for a moment.
Then the light went on.
“This woman,” he said smiling broadly, and nodded across the room towards the beaming old lady who drained her gin and tonic in anticipation of having to respond.
“This very distinguished lady,” the Colonel said, focusing everyone’s attention in her direction ……., “played rugby for Scotland!”